Monday, June 4, 2012

Remembering the Penitentes


 Anonymity covers them with grace
 as dancers define grace, reduction to form,
 curved lines throwing boundaries in space
that slip away with the motion of an arm.
They walk in file, bare backs and hooded heads
inverting normal patterns of disclosure.
Slow steps on earth, in air the knotted threads
move together in repeated measure.

The procession winds the streets. The line
 twists as it turns like their whips, magnified.
The lashes leave trails of blood along their spines,
 and along the spine of the street they leave behind.

Everything is changed. Sins become pain,
the spirit descends on the body, flesh ascends
to prayer, display provides release from shame,
offense turned inward offers up amends.

The sliding doors of the stores where the men drank
and swapped gossip yesterday are locked.
The fishing nets are folded on the bank
 at the edge of town where the outriggers are docked.
The coconut trees are undisturbed by wind:
all struggle in this scene is gathered in
these bodies and released from broken skin.                                                                  

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